Tater Diggin’

I remember digging up potatoes in the garden when I was growing up on our farm in Todd County, Kentucky. Dad had an old “tater digger” that was just about perfect for the job. If my memory is working in nearly correct mode, it had four thick, flat metal tines, spread about an inch-and-a-half apart, with an almost ninety-degree bend about two inches below the spine. The tines extended another eight inches or so below the bend. Just above the bend, a heavy tang was welded to the spine and fastened inside a hollow steel handle that was around four feet long. (I’d guess that handle was probably a piece of old water pipe.) The whole thing was the color of old iron, long weathered and worn smooth on the gripping area.

Using the digger was about as simple as tool use gets. Swing it down hard so the tines jam into the ground at a nearly vertical angle just an inch or two away from where you think the clump of potatoes begins. The handle will be at a fairly low angle with your arms extended. Raise the handle up, forcing the tines to pivot on their bend, lifting the potatoes up out of the soil. There was something magical in raising up food from the ground. Hidden one moment and then plainly visible the next.

Simple, yes. Easy? Not quite.

Doing just one or two hills to grub out a mess of potatoes for one or two meals was not so bad. But as frost approached and it was time for harvesting the whole row, now, that was another matter. Swinging the heavy digger, then bending over and picking up the potatoes. A couple hours of that would have my back aching. Every now and then, I’d stand and stretch, bend as far backwards as I dared, hoping that would help.

It did help, but only for as long as I kept stretching. Bend back into the work and the ache returned instantly. And stayed for a day or two. I don’t know and never wanted to find out if doing that for a couple of weeks would condition me enough that my back wouldn’t hurt like that.

I did find that getting done with the job and not having to do it any more was a pretty good fix. That’s not a bad lesson for a kid to learn: just do it and have it over with. Then, move on. That works for a lot of the things that we know need doing. Sometimes, the dreading of a thing is worse than the thing itself.

Maybe that’s why the Lord advised us to leave tomorrow’s troubles for tomorrow rather than adding them to today’s batch. I don’t think there’s ever been a day that lacked enough of its own.

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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